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Good news: Illinois finally issues a “stay at home” order to protect residents

Governor Pritzker at a coronavirus press event. Photo: Tyler LaRiviere, Chicago Sun-Times

Update 3/20/20, 5 PM: Read this Twitter thread for comments from Governor Pritzker, Mayor Lightfoot, and other local officials and health experts at this afternoon's press conference on the "stay at home" order.

Ever since Monday, when Bay Area officials announced a "shelter in place" order requiring residents to stay home during the pandemic, except for essential jobs, errands, and exercise, Streetsblog Chicago has been pushing for the Chicago region to follow suit. That's because such guidelines help spread the word about safe "social distancing" behavior that residents should already be doing, and create positive peer pressure from relatives, friends, and neighbors to encourage compliance.

(SBC does not endorse fining or arresting people to enforce the rules, except in the case of truly egregious behavior, such as people endangering public safety by holding large, crowded gatherings.)

Four days later, it looks like an Illinois SIP order is finally happen. This afternoon the Chicago Tribune reported that Governor J.B. Pritzker plans to announce new rules for the entire state starting Saturday, according to sources. Pritzker was expected to announce the order at 3 p.m. today in a press event with Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot.

According to the Tribune, the restrictions will be similar to the rules in San Francisco. These allow people to leave their homes to shop for food, medicine, and other necessary supplies, gas up their cars, and go for walks, hikes, and bicycle rides, as long as a six-foot distance from non-household members is maintained. Residents will be prohibited from making non-essential visits to each other's homes, although delivering supplies to or providing care for a relative, friend, or vulnerable person will be allowed. Essential businesses will be allowed to remain open (the Active Transportation Alliances is currently lobbying for bike repair shops to be classified as such), but non-crucial businesses, such as salons, barber shops, book stores, and gift shops, will be shuttered.

Illinois would be the second state to issue a SIP order. California governor Gavin Newsome issued one Thursday night, and New York State is considering a similar move.

Under the Illinois rules, you'll still be able to go to the bank, do laundry at a laundromat, pick up home repair supplies at a hardware shop, or make a run to a convenience store. In short, these are not going to be draconian rules, considering the existential threat the pandemic poses for elderly and vulnerable Illinoisans.

And even if you're relatively young and healthy, and therefore less likely to become seriously ill from the virus, young people have died from it. Moreover, if hospitals become swamped with sick people, there will be no hospital beds or ventilators available if you have some other kind of health emergency.

You'll still be able to take a bike ride to the beach, or take a walk with a friend during the SIP order. Photo: John Greenfield
You'll still be able to take a bike ride to the beach, or take a walk with a friend during the SIP order. Photo: John Greenfield
You'll still be able to take a bike ride to the beach, or take a walk with a friend during the SIP order. Photo: John Greenfield

It's unlikely that a majority of Illinoisans will comply with social distancing rules unless the law requires it, so this is good news for public safety, and restoring our city to normalcy sooner than later. In the meantime, don't fret, you can still go for a stroll, wheelchair excursion, bike ride, roller skate journey, or skateboard run with a friend, as long as you stay six feet apart, and you can still enjoy takeout burritos.

Read the Chicago Tribune article here.

Here are some tips on preventing the spread of coronavirus, and advice for Chicagoans on what to do if you think you may have been exposed to the virus.

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